Dennis Claridge, who quarterbacked the Nebraska Cornhuskers to a 13-7 Orange Bowl victory over Auburn following the 1963 season under second-year coach Bob Devaney, died Tuesday after a 3-year battle with bladder cancer. He was 76.
Claridge, a native of Robbinsdale, Minnesota, was a recruit of former coach Bill Jennings and largely credited for the Big Red Renaissance under Devaney, who replaced Jennings in 1962. Claridge and Devaney were key figures in the Memorial Stadium’s NCAA record sellout streak that began with a homecoming game against Missouri in 1962 and lasts to this day.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Claridge led Nebraska to a 9-2 record in 1962, Devaney’s first season, and a 10-1 record in 1963, including a perfect 7-0 mark in Big Eight Conference games. The only loss that season came to Air Force, and Claridge helped the Cornhuskers finish strong in the Orange Bowl, when he scored Nebraska’s only touchdown on a 68-yard run. He led Nebraska to the program’s first two bowl victories, the Gotham Bowl and the aforementioned Orange Bowl.
Claridge returned to Nebraska for his senior season after being selected in the third round of the 1963 NFL Draft as an eligible junior, and he joined the Green Bay Packers in 1964. There, he was a member of the 1965 NFL Championship, playing behind Bart Starr and Zeke Bratkowski under legendary coach Vince Lombardi.